Composting: A Hotel’s Key to Waste Reduction

Composting: A Hotel’s Key to Waste Reduction

Waste is simply part of doing business as a hotel.  If you’re not producing waste, well then you’re probably out of business. Unfortunately many hotels produce tons of waste each year, and I mean that in a very literal sense. Recycling and reuse efforts can help mitigate some of this waste, but what about all the food related waste produced by your kitchens and restaurants? Or the landscape debris generated throughout your property? You can’t send those items to be recycled, so you’ve probably been directing them straight to the landfill.  But there is something else you can do.  It’s called composting…

It’s A Natural Process

You’ve probably heard of composting, but what is it all about? In the simplest terms possible, composting involves nothing more than the managed decomposition of organic material and a very natural process. Living organisms eventually die, and when they do their remains are consumed by a host of living organisms as food. As these organisms digest this matter, over time, it eventually creates nutrient rich soil. In a natural setting, this process can take years, and involve some rather unpleasant stages. However, when you manage your composting it can take only a few weeks and eliminate many of the un-pleasantries.

Incorporating Composting Into Your Operations

Making composting part of your hotel’s operations can be done through offsite collection or through the creation of an onsite compost pile.

For hotels that have limited space, such as those in urban areas, offsite composting is probably the preferable option. Offsite composting, as its name suggests, involves sending your compostable materials to another location for the composting process to take place. Many municipalities, especially larger ones, now provide composting services, and even when the local government doesn’t, there may be service providers in the area that can take care of your composting. To take part in these services, your hotel will need to segregate compostable materials from those materials that are recyclable or simply waste. Materials that are usually accepted by municipal compost collectors include:

  • Food waste
  • Yard Clippings
  • Fallen Leaves
  • Small Branches
  • Soiled Paper Products
  • Bones

You will want to check with your specific provider though to make sure what is acceptable and what isn’t, as this varies by provider. These materials are usually collected weekly and sent to an industrial composting site. Once there, the compostable material is ground into smaller sizes and managed carefully until the waste is transformed into productive soil. The composting service usually sells this to local growers.

Alternatively, hotels that have spacious property and/or are situated in more rural areas may want to compost on site. Obviously composting this way takes a little more work, but it can save you money and provide rich compost matter for your gardening efforts. Some things to remember when creating your own compost pile onsite:

  • Make sure you have two piles. Things will only fully decompose if you stop adding yet- to-decompose material, so you’ll want a place to accumulate compost material during the time one pile is composting.
  • Use a significant amount of dry materials, such as fallen leaves or dry grass. This will help regulate the moisture and air content of the pile, while making microorganisms work more efficiently.
  • Avoid just composting food and/or green waste. Without drier materials, these items will just rot rather than compost. This is why landfills don’t work for composting.
  • Routinely “stir” your compost pile so that microorganism will stay active and consume all the waste in the pile.
  • Many items that can be composted at an industrial level cannot be composted efficiently onsite; such as meats, soiled paper products, bones, and large food waste items, because of the inability to compact these items into easier to decompose amounts. Trying to compost these will only succeed in drawing unwanted pests to your property.
  • Check out in-vessel composting systems to make the process even easier; Large Ridan Food Waste Composter and  Earth Flow Composting System are both designed for commercial on-site composting.

Regardless of the method your hotel chooses to compost, it will be import for staff to be educated on which items can and cannot be composted and where these items should be disposed of in order for your hotel to maximize the benefits of composting.

The Fruits of Composting

Benefiting from composting should be no problem for your hotel. You’ll probably be amazed at how natural and easy a process it really is – and with such a positive impact. Some of the benefits include:

  • Cost savings. It is usually cheaper to compost than to dispose through normal garbage collection.  Savings can amount to a few thousand dollars each year. Savings will be greater for those composting onsite because you won’t have to pay a composting service.
  • Reductions in the amount of waste sent to landfills. Some hotels have experienced declines of hundreds of thousands of pounds of kitchen waste as a result of composting.  This helps reduce the strain placed on our landfills, allowing them to be available for material that absolutely needs to be placed in them.
  • Rich, productive soil. The soil that is created from composting is perfect for growing plants. Use this soil to create healthy gardens and enrich the green space on your property. And even if you compost offsite, you’ll know your compost contribution is being used to enhance the growing prowess of local producers.
  • Less reliance on chemical fertilizers. Compost soil has all the nutrients that plants will need to grow, so you will have little reason to use fertilizers that can contaminate water sources and harm some animals.
  • A green marketing opportunity. Composting offers yet another way for you to convey to your guests your commitment to the environment.

Who would have thought that a little change and effort could be so productive for your hotel and the environment?Is composting on your list of sustainable initiatives?

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David Thurnau

Community Relations at Community Green Energy
David Thurnau has a background in political science, municipal government, and agriculture with an emphasis in environmental issues.

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